On February 28, Foya citizens in Lofa County Electoral District #1 went to the polls in a by-election that was hotly contested by nine men and a woman. The National Elections Commission (NEC) declared the seat vacant at the Lower House of Representatives following the death of Representative Eugene Fallah Kparkar.
Deployed senior NEC officials and those assigned in the upper Lofa election magisterial area earlier cautioned the nine contestants to remain civil and abide by election guidelines.
In that regard, the contestants followed the rules of the political contest and campaigned throughout the district.
However, NEC officials had projected that a little over 30,000 eligible voters would vote in the February 28 polls. Regrettably, the NEC’s projection did fell short from all indications due to voter apathy and inadequate civic and voter education.
NEC officials proffered that civic and voter education is the collective responsibility of stakeholders in any electoral process.
Most of the citizens and first time voters described the campaign as great as all of the candidates (the defeated and the winner) visited every polling station and voting precinct.
The candidates were able to present their platforms and their usual rhetoric of a better Foya District.
The voters received the candidates’ messages with caution and went to the polls well-informed to make their choice among the nine candidates.
After the nine threw their hats in the ring after the NEC’s official declaration of the vacant seat, the official campaigns by the candidates were initially greeted with personal attacks on each other, but more especially on the chiefs and elders who had thrown their support behind Francis Sakilah Nyumalin of the Union of Liberian Democrats (ULD).
Voters and party agents at the various polling places in the district arrived as early as 8:00 a.m. on voting day.
At all the polling places, agents of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction’s (MDR) were conspicuously absent, with no MDR official available to comment on their absence.
Out of the estimated 30,000 voters that were expected to go to the polls at designated polling stations in the three clans of Tiangia, Waum and Rankolle in the district, only 10,603 eventually turned out to vote.
But senior NEC officials rejected claims that the electoral process experienced a low turnout and told reporters that perhaps some of the voters might have moved to different locations, as population is not static.
Official results issued by the NEC are as follows: Jeremiah Saah Borlay of MDR, 273; Peter T.O. James of Alternative National Congress (ANC), 255; William Tamba Kamba of Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE), 2,996; William Saah Kettor of Unity Party (UP), 1,846; Joseph Tamba Machulay of Liberia Transformation Party (LTP), 80; Francis Sakila Nyumalin of ULD, 3,149; William Tamba Saa of Liberty Party (LP), 410; Damacious Tamba Saysay of All Liberian Party (ALP), 528; and Elizabeth Tamba, Independent, 295.
In interviews with citizens, they attributed the success of the by-election to the orderly and peaceful conduct of the campaigning process by the candidates.
Some of the presiding NEC officials told reporters that there were instances when some voters’ cards were faded, with missing photos and serial numbers, but that their officials deployed on the ground were able to amicably resolve those issues, and that the voting process went ahead.
The NEC officials were seen on many occasions resolving minor electoral issues, especially when some of the voters were unable to identify their original polling places.
In interviews with voters after casting their ballots, they said the voting process was orderly and easy.
Edward Fayia Kendima, 55, said he was grateful that he exercised his democratic right to select the candidate of his choice.
“I voted freely and did not go through any confrontation, fear and favor in the land of my forefathers in Foya District,” he said.
Madam Kumba B. Fayia, 39, said the by-election was her first encounter and was happy to exercise her constitutional right.
“It is my hope that the 2017 presidential and legislative elections will be conducted in a stress free environment,” she emphasized.